Assault on pregnant girlfriend an example of slight spike in domestic violence during holidays

Stock photo by Stelsone/iSTock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The quick actions of police officers in Cedar City prevented a domestic disturbance from escalating any further when they responded to a report involving an alleged assault on a pregnant woman by a boyfriend who threatened others with a knife.

Jose Hernandez, 22, of Cedar City, booking photo taken in Iron County, Utah, Dec. 20, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar City News, St. George News

The incident began shortly before midnight Friday morning when officers were dispatched to a domestic disturbance involving the suspect, later identified as 22-year-old Jose Hernandez, who had allegedly assaulted his girlfriend. Officers were also advised that the 911 caller reported the suspect had a knife, according to charging documents submitted to the Iron County Attorney’s Office for review.

Officer arrived at the home to find Hernandez in the doorway still holding the knife, while the suspect’s mother was trying to hold him back. As the mother did so, Hernandez was repeatedly ordered to drop the knife.

With the mother behind the suspect, the first officer deployed the taser, which had no effect until a second officer deployed their taser. This caused the suspect to drop to the ground and release the knife.

With the suspect in custody, officers began speaking to witnesses and learned that a fight broke out when the suspect’s girlfriend accused him of sleeping with a runaway juvenile, at which point Hernandez attempted to take the keys to the girlfriend’s vehicle and then attacked the girlfriend as he did so.

A family member attempted to intervene and was pushed by Hernandez, who then grabbed a knife, police say. Police also learned from witnesses that three young children were upstairs and could hear the alleged assault taking place. After police were called, the suspect went to the front door to wait for the officers, still holding the knife, and told a family member he wanting to “do a suicide by police,” the report states.

After Hernandez was transported to Cedar City Hospital for evaluation and then medically cleared, he was booked into the Iron County Jail facing multiple charges, including third-degree felony aggravated assault. He also faces six misdemeanor charges that include assault, assault on a pregnant person, three counts of commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child and interfering with an arresting officer.

The suspect remains in custody without bail.

Domestic violence and the holidays 

One common perception is that domestic violence calls, similar to Friday’s incident, spike during the holidays.

Stock image, St. George News

Iron County Sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser said there is a slight increase in the number of domestic reports that deputies respond to during the holiday months, which he said can often be attributed to the added stress many feel during the holidays, including financial stress.

What officers see more often, he said, is an increase in the level of violence during domestic-related calls, and that alcohol plays a role in many of these types of calls.

“Alcohol use seems to always play a role in the severity of the injuries when we are out on many of these calls,” he said. “And the more alcohol that is involved, the more severe are the injuries in many cases.”

At first glance, it would make sense that domestic-related violence would increase during November and December, being there is the added stress associated with family tensions, money issues and crowded homes.

However, a number of studies have shown that in fact — the exact opposite is true.

According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, there is not one national study that links the holidays with an increase in domestic violence, and that most of the data the organization found came from the personal experience of those that work in the field, such as shelter advocates, case workers or officers.

The evidence suggests that a majority of domestic violence calls are reported at night and on the weekend, with the highest number of domestic violence calls reported in July.

On average, domestic violence calls on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day were slightly below the general trend of any ordinary non-holiday. Once the holidays are over, however, there is typically a 5% increase in call volume that continues for about two weeks.

Research also suggests there is a direct link between increased alcohol use and the use of violence, supporting Schlosser’s comments.

Depression and shorter days

Schlosser did say that depression seems to be a factor in a higher number of calls officers respond to, including family disturbances. This is not only during the holidays, he said, but during the winter months in general.

Stock image, St. George News

There are a variety of factors that can play a role in holiday anxiety and depression, including financial burdens, an increase in the number of family gatherings and heightened expectations, as well as loneliness for those who aren’t with family or loved ones.

Depression can also affect relationships within the family.

Another important factor involves fewer daylight hours, Schlosser said, which lowers the body’s level of vitamin D that is absorbed by the body from the sun, and numerous studies suggests that seasonal depression can be triggered by lack of sunlight.

One recent study revealed that vitamin D deficiency may be behind it. Fewer hours of daylight also reduces the levels of vitamin D circulating throughout the body which can lead to lethargy, depression, feelings of guilt and hopelessness and cravings for carbohydrates.

“That is why I look forward to Dec. 22,” Schlosser said. “Because winter solstice has passed, and from that point on the days start getting longer, which means more sunlight.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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